Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is something we often relate to as an illness for war vets. In fact, it’s a mental health condition. When something traumatic occurs, the person will experience triggers in the present that place them back to the event. These events can be violent and make a person feel as though they were powerless. As a type of anxiety disorder, it is based on a past event or series of events. The person will have experienced or witnessed something very traumatic.
There are symptoms of flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety that incapacitate a person. We have or all will go through some traumatic events in our lifetime. It can be hard to adjust and cope with our experience but as time passes and we take care of ourselves, it can improve. This is not the case with PTSD. Symptoms actually worsen over time and will last for months of years if not treated.
The symptoms are often so powerful that a person can’t function in the world anymore. This is why it’s so essential that they seek out treatment. Sadly, many people with PTSD will self-medicate to numb the pain and emotional discomfort they feel. Research has found that there is a connection of suicidal behaviors and trauma. Getting treatment specifically for PTSD allows the victim to understand their feelings and work to cope with their experience. Here are the best proven treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Different Therapy for Various Types of Trauma
Within trauma, there are different types. This can be physical trauma, emotional, sexual, and psychological. There are a variety of PSTD treatments to manage the kinds of trauma that a person might be experiencing.
With the help of post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, it’s possible for people to get that control back. The main treatment is psychotherapy but medication might be implemented. These two umbrella treatments can help improve the symptoms.
The therapy will teach the person the necessary skills to address the symptoms they have. They can also learn to think more positively about other people, the world, and themselves. They gain coping skills to manage any symptoms that may occur. If the person with PTSD developed a problem with substance abuse, they will give them proper treatment for co-occurring disorder. Anxiety and depression will also be managed through PTSD therapy.
Here are the 8 most proven treatments that help people with PTSD recover.
There are a variety of different therapies within psychotherapy. For children and adults suffering from PTSD, this is an essential and safe method to healing. Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy. The Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) for PTSD believes that individual trauma-focused psychotherapies are most effective. This includes Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR).
The US Department of Veteran Affairs explained in a briefing that psychotherapy is far more effective than PTSD medication. If vets were in an area where psychotherapy wasn’t available for them, medication would suffice in the interim however.
2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how they relate to one another. CBT techniques for PTSD helps to change those patterns that occur within the thoughts, feelings and behaviors responsible for creating the difficulties in one’s life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the relationship among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; targets current problems and symptoms; and focuses on changing patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that lead to difficulties in functioning. During this therapy, a person’s negative thoughts can be altered, leading to better behavior and emotional regulation. CBT will target the problems in one’s life as well as the symptoms. It usually occurs in up to 16 sessions and can be individual or group therapy.
It is said to be the most effective treatment for PTSD. The emotional processing theory believes that how one associates with the world after a traumatic experience can be changed. Social cognitive theory is based on how someone experiencing trauma has beliefs about themselves, others and the world that make it challenging to overcome trauma. An example of this would be someone believing that bad things to bad people. Something traumatic occurring with a person would think they were victimized because they’re bad. They can’t see the reality which is that they were violated without reason. These theories help therapists use the strategies of cognitive behavioral treatment more effectively.
Using CBT to Treat PTSD
Talk therapy helps a person with PTSD to see how they are thinking and why it is keeping them stuck in memories of the traumatic event. Negative beliefs and the fear that more traumatic events will happen in the future can all be changed. This is core of how CBT treatment works for PTSD. Alongside of cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy will often be incorporated.
3. Exposure therapy
Exposure therapy for PTSD is primarily based on getting the person to face the traumatic event and memories that go with it. It is possible to safely learn to cope with the past trauma. Exposure therapy has been shown to be extremely helpful with the flashbacks and nightmares that occur. Virtual reality programs have shown to be a way that one can go back into the traumatic setting to gain exposure.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
There are different types of exposure such as prolonged exposure. This is a gradual process that allows the person with PTSD to approach the memories, feeling and situation slowly. They slowly begin to learn that every surrounding the trauma is no longer a danger and that their triggers don’t need to be avoided. Prolonged exposure usually takes up to three months with sessions occurring once a week.
Before even starting the therapy, therapists will give the patient an understanding of their past experience. There will be psychoeducation and the teaching of a breathing technique to handle whatever anxiety arises. The therapist has to gain the trust of their patient so there is a sense of safe space between them as they encounter their frightening experience.
In this type of exposure, the patient with PTSD will be asked to describe the event in detail as though it was the present tense. The therapist will guide the patient and they will both discuss the emotional process the patient went through. The patient will be recorded so they can reflect back on it during sessions. This allows them to further process the emotions.
4. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a combination of exposure therapy and guided eye movements that allow the PTSD patient to process the traumatic memories they experienced. This therapy helps them to react differently to the event. Stress management skills are often incorporated into this therapy to help the person manage the stress they may experience. It allows the person with PTSD to gain the control they lost in their trauma.
5. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
This behavioral treatment for emotional trauma helps those with PTSD to be open enough about what they experienced. Often, someone with PTSD will do everything they can to escape the pain that surround the experience. The focus is on living a life of meaning and be willing to experience the inner feelings that exist. Meditation is an overall tool for wellbeing and can be a good exercise to begin accepting reality.
6. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
This type of therapy will focus on many factors that are causing PSTD symptoms. This could be early childhood trauma, relationships or how a person is protecting themselves from the thoughts and feelings surrounding the trauma. It is a means of helping patients deal with long-term effects of trauma. There is an emphasis on the unconscious mind that causes certain behaviors which separates this therapy from CBT.
7. Treatments for the Co-Occurrence of PTSD and Substance Abuse
Oftentimes, due to the common occurrence of PTSD and substance abuse, various types of therapy will need to be incorporated. Seeking safety is one method of treatment. Instead of running away from the emotions by numbing oneself, someone with PTSD will need to feel safe to cope with the triggers. There are many treatments that are used to target co-occurrence.
8. Medications for PTSD
There are many medications that can help a patient with PTSD. This can include:
Antidepressants – A symptom of PTSD includes depression. It helps improve sleep. FDA-approved PTSD medications include Zoloft and Paxil.
Anti-anxiety medications – Anxiety is a major factor for someone suffering from psychological trauma. Anti-anxiety medications can be used for a short time to allow the PTSD patient to focus on healing. As PTSD patients are prone to addiction, anti-anxiety medication shouldn’t be used for long periods of time.
What PTSD Treatment Can Do
Generally, the PTSD treatment will reduce the symptoms that plague someone with the disorder. This allows the person to function more optimally. There is short term psychotherapy and medications that have been proven to help. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be very effective when geared towards physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder differs from other mental illnesses because it takes an outside event to be diagnosed for it. There are many traumatic events that can lead to PTSD. The event often caused people to feel as though they were totally powerless and out of control. Due to the sheer terror of the situation, it can permanently change how one physically and psychologically responds to any stress in their day to day life.
A general outline of what a traumatic event is would be an unexpected violation to physical or mental well-being. Examples of traumatic events include:
- War times.
- Either yourself or someone you love being kidnapped.
- Terrorist attacks.
- The sudden death of a loved one.
- A plane or car crash.
- A violent assault.
- Sex or physical abuse from someone you know.
- Childhood neglect.
- Any natural disaster such as earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes.
Determining if You Have PTSD
Post-traumatic will usually onset about a month after the event occurred. The symptoms can last for years and cause outward problems in one’s life. As the symptoms can be intense and have the potential to last for a long time, someone can lose everything. Social, work, and family relationships will become taxed as the person lives with trauma. They may find it challenging to move forward with normal tasks.
A psychological evaluation will be conducted to find out for sure if a person does have PTSD. The American Psychiatric Association has a specific guideline to determining this disorder. The criteria in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the gauge.
The Types of PTSD Symptoms
There are four types of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. They include:
- Intrusive memories.
- Negative feeling and thinking.
- Physical and emotional reactions when triggers occur.
In order to implement the right PTSD therapy techniques, there needs to be a diagnosis of the disorder. The physician will look to find out what happened during the event or experience and how long ago it occurred. The person would have to recount the memory as best as they can though this can be challenging due to the aversion symptom in PTSD patients.
The Most Common Symptoms of PTSD
This can involve; flashbacks, nightmares, constantly experiencing distressing images and stressful sensations. Physical sensations can occur like sweating, nausea and shaking. Negative thoughts can come up that creates an obstacle to them getting past the event.
Avoidance and Emotional Numbing
Avoidance and emotional numbing – The person with PTSD may try to avoid reminders of the event. They may avoid people or places that remind them of what happened. They will have a hard time talking about their experience and try to push the memories out of their mind. This is why many people with PTSD will have co-occurring disorders where they become addicted to substances. Someone with PTSD may emotionally numb themselves by working on not feeling anything.
Hyperarousal is when someone will constantly feel the need to be on guard. They will feel on edge and unable to really relax. They can become easily startled and will experience symptoms within it. They include:
- Violent outbursts.
- Challenges concentrating.
Negative Thoughts and Beliefs
Someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder will often adopt negative thoughts about life and the world around them. As they are unable to cope with their emotions but continue to get sucked back into their negative experience, they have little ability to experience any joy. This becomes a downward spiral and suicidal thoughts can often occur. Substance abuse and PTSD are closely related also.
Mental Health Problems
Many times, there will be co-occurring disorders that occur with PTSD. Depression and anxiety are very common. There may be phobias that occur as well, especially something that is related to the traumatic event.
Some people may form disorders where they intentionally harm themselves. This can include self-destructive patterns like heavy drinking or drug abuse. Substance abuse can make things much worse for someone with post-traumatic stress disorder. They now have to deal with two disorders that occur alongside each other. Some might also purposely injure themselves or partake in risky sexual behavior.
The common physical symptoms that occur with PTSD patients include headaches, chest pain, pain in the stomach and dizziness.
Help is Available and Often Needed
For anyone suffering from PTSD symptoms, it’s important to get help. There have been a high rate of PTSD treatment for veterans that have been successful. It has been even more helpful in civilian situations. Unaddressed PTSD can worsen over time and cause psychological disorders. Substance use disorders, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression often manifest.